DC League of Super-Pets review: Dwayne Johnson upstaged by guinea pig in hilarious comedy
The DCEU extends further thanks to League of Super-Pets, a new animated movie that pits super-powered animals against each other, in the process giving their live-action counterparts a run for their money.
Legends of Super-Pets is a fun concept, delivering origin stories for wise-cracking animals who will ultimately partner with the DC superheroes we all know and love.
The voice cast is stacked too, featuring the vocal stylings of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Keanu Reeves, and stand-out Kate McKinnon.
With Lego Movie duo Jared Sterns and John Whittington writing – and the former directing – the result is a movie that will entertain kids and adults alike, with the action spectacular, and the jokes both low-brow and high.
What happens in DC League of Super-Pets?
The film kicks off where a couple of live-action Superman movies have started – on Krypton, as the planet is crumbling. Young Cal-El is placed in a pod and shot into space. But in this version, he’s joined by young canine friend Krypto. “Our boy will need a friend,” says Lara. “Watch over him,” instructs Jor-El. As ever, baby Supes setting off on that journey is incredibly moving.
Cut to now, and big Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) wants to go for a walk with big Superman (John Krasinski). Though their version of walkies involves flying through the skies of Metropolis, and saving those below from thieves, runaway trains, and a giant robot.
But there’s trouble brewing for the crimefighting duo, as Superman is ready to settle down with Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde), and Krypto doesn’t like that one bit. Jealousy becomes a driving force of the plot, which isn’t the most child-friendly of motivators.
To counter Krypto’s jealousy, Superman decides to find him a friend, so heads to the nearest animal shelter, which is where the pre-league of super-pets come in.
Who are the Super-Pets?
The incarcerated animals include boxer dog Ace (Kevin Hart), potbellied pig PB (Vanessa Bayer), red squirrel Chip (Diego Luna), and foul-mouthed turtle Merton (Natasha Lyonne), all of whom are desperate to find a new home.
But hairless guinea-pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon) is less keen on finding a family, and more interested in world domination. So with the help of a makeshift laser, she plucks some orange Kryptonite out of the sky, in the process bestowing superpowers on herself and her fellow prisoners.
Ace becomes strong and invulnerable, PB can change size, Chip develops electrokinesis, and Merton gets fast. As ever in a superhero story, it’s fun watching the animals figure out what their powers are, and work on how to harness them, with the movie putting a novel twist on the training montage.
As for Lulu, she can move objects with her mind, which comes in handy when endeavouring to enslave the planet.
Meet the Super-Friends
While battling Lex Luthor early in proceedings, Superman teams up with his Super-Friends, which include Batman (Keanu Reeves), Wonder Woman (Jameela Jamil), Aquaman (Jemaine Clement), Cyborg (Daveed Diggs), Green Lantern (Dascha Polanco) and The Flash (John Early).
But quick as a Flash, they are in trouble, meaning the newly powered-up pets are forced into action. Problem is, this crisis on earth coincides with Krypto losing his alien abilities. So in somewhat predictable fashion, he’s forced to learn that superpowers aren’t ultimately what make you a hero.
It’s obvious stuff, with the other somewhat labored message being about setting someone free if you truly love them. But while the cliches come thick and fast, they are sandwiched between some spectacular animated action, and jokes for comic book fans of all ages.
Targeting Marvel AND DC
There are times when the movie gently ribs superhero movies, and other times when it outright spoofs them. No target is off limits.
Superman listens to ‘I Am Superman’ by R.E.M. while comparing himself to Iron Man. Batman’s loner status is set up alongside a great gag about Lucius Fox. There’s a running joke about Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, obvs. While as ever, Aquaman is mocked mercilessly; the scene where he feasts on fish food being one of the film’s funniest.
But the jokes are combined with loving homage, and some of the movie’s most memorable scenes are scored to John Williams’ Superman score, Danny Elfman’s Batman score, and that funky Wonder Woman tune from the 1970s.
The Verdict – Is DC League of Super-Pets good?
The result is a light-hearted flick that never – aside from a couple of genuinely traumatic backstories – takes itself too seriously. Which makes a change in DC’s Extended Universe.
Johnson’s Krypto and Hart’s Ace are a winning combination, and they are more than matched by McKinnon’s villainous Lulu, who is several guineas short of a pig, and steals pretty much every scene she’s in.
And while the laughs are plentiful, when the super-pets finally pair off with their super-powered owners, it’s genuinely heart-warming, with the film ending on an uplifting note, and setting the stage for the team-up movie that will inevitably follow.
DC League of Super-Pets hits UK and US screens on July 29.